Under the terms of its Royal Charter, the Society is required to “maintain a code of conduct”. In 1985 the Society adopted a code of conduct prior to the introduction of the Register of Chartered Psychologists with provision for an Investigatory Committee and Disciplinary Board to consider complaints of professional misconduct against members of the Society. In the light of experience dealing with several dozen allegabons of misconduct these committees recommended some amendments to the code. After extensive consultations the following revised code of conduct was approved by the Council in February 1993 and adopted forthwith.
Statute 15(12) states that a Disciplinary Committee shall be “guided by the Code of Conduct, but that mention or lack of mention in the Code of Conduct of a particular act or omission shall not be taken as conclusive on any question of professional conduct”. Nevertheless, the Code sets out certain minimum standards for conduct with which psychologists are required to comply. However, the Code is also supplemented by several other guidelines and statement,,; on matters of ethics and conduct published by the Society and its sub-systems. These frequently set out standards of good practice at which psychologists should aim. Some of these other statements give detailed guidance on matters such as advertising and descriptions, research with human or animal participants and some are relevant to specific fields of professional practice or concern the special provisions of law and practice on such matters as confidentiality and the disclosure of information. Members and contributors of the Society, many of whom will be Chartered Psychologists, must also take account of these further guidelines issued from time to time by the Society and its sub-systems, but especially those relevant to their own specialist fields of practice or research.
1 – General
In all their work psychologists shall conduct themselves in a manner that does not bring into disrepute the discipline and the profession of psychology. They shall value integrity, impartiality and respect for persons and evidence and shall seek to establish the highest ethical standards in their work. Because of their concern for valid evidence, they shall ensure that research is carried out in keeping with the highest standards of scientific integrity. Taking account of their obligations under the law, they shall hold the interest and welfare of those in receipt of their services to be paramount at all times and ensure that the interests of participants in research are safeguarded.
2 – Competence
Psychologists shall endeavour to maintain and develop their professional competence, to recognize and work within its limits, and to identify and ameliorate factors which restrict it.
Specifically they shall:
- 2.1 refrain from laying claim, directly or indirectly, to psychological qualifications or affiliations they do not possess, from claiming competence in any particular area of psychology in which they have not established their competence, and from claiming characteristics or capabilities for themselves or others which they do not possess;
- 2.2 recognize the boundaries of their own competence and not attempt to practise any form of psychology for which they do not have an appropriate preparation or, where applicable, specialist qualification;
- 2.3 take all reasonable steps to ensure that their qualifications, capabilities or views are not misrepresented by others, and to correct any such misrepresentations;
- 2.4 if requested to provide psychological services, and where the services they judge to be appropriate are outside their personal competence, give every reasonable assistance towards obtaining those services from others who are appropriately qualified to provide them;
- 2.5 take all reasonable steps to ensure that those working under their direct supervision comply with each of the foregoing, in particular that they recognize the limits of their competence and do not attempt to practise beyond them.
3 – Obtaining consent
Psychologists shall normally carry out investigations or interventions only with the valid consent of participants, having taken all reasonable steps to ensure that they have adequately understood the nature of the investigation or intervention and its anticipated consequences.
Specifically they shall:
- 3.1 always consult experienced professional colleagues when considering withholding information about an investigatory procedure, and withhold information only when it is necessary in the interests of the objectivity of the investigatory procedure or of future professional practise;
- 3.2 where it is necessary not to give full information in advance to those participating in an investigation, provide such full information retrospectively about the aims, rationale and outcomes of the procedure as far as it is consistent with a concern for the welfare of the participants;
- 3.3 refrain from making exaggerated, sensational and unjustifiable claims for the effectiveness of their methods and products, from advertising services or products in a way likely to encourage unrealistic expectations about the effectiveness of the services or products offered, or from misleading those to whom services are offered about the nature and likely consequences of any interventions to be undertaken;
- 3.4 normally obtain the consent of those to whom interventions are offered, taking all reasonable steps to ensure that the consent obtained is valid, except when the intervention is made compulsorily in accordance with the provisions and safeguards of the relevant legislation;
- 3.5 recognize and uphold the rights of those whose capacity to give valid consent to interventions may be diminished including the young, those with learning disabilities, the elderly, those in the care of an institution or detained under the provisions of the law;
- 3.6 where interventions are offered to those in no position to give valid consen4 after consulting with experienced professional colleagues, establish who has legal authority to give consent and seek consent from that person or those persons;
- 3.7 recognize and uphold the rights of recipients of services to withdraw consent to interventions or other professional procedures after they have commenced and terminate or recommend alternative services when there is evidence that those in receipt of their services are deriving no benefit from them.
4 – Confidentiality
Psychologists shall maintain adequate records, but they shall take all reasonable steps to preserve the confidentiality of information acquired through their professional practice or research and to protect the privacy of individuals or oragnizations about whom information is collected or held. In general, and subject to the requirements of law, they shall take care to prevent the identity of individuals, organizations or participants in research being revealed, deliberately or inadvertently, without their expressed permission.
Specifically they shall:
- 4.1 endeavour to communicate information obtained through research or practise in ways which do not permit the identification of individuals or organizations;
- 4.2 convey personally identifiable information obtained in the course of professional work to others, only with the expressed permission of those who would be identified, (subject always to the best interests of recipients of services or participants in research and subject to the requirements of law and agreed working practices) except that when working in a team or with collaborators, they shall endeavour to make clear to recipients of services or participants in research, the extent to which personally identifiable information may be shared between colleagues or others within a group receiving the services;
- 4.3 in exceptional circumstances, where there is sufficient evidence to raise serious concern about the safety or interests of recipients of services, or about others who may be threatened by the recipient’s behaviour, take such steps as are judged necessary to inform appropriate third parties without prior consent after first consulting an experienced and disinterested colleague, unless the delay caused by seeking this advice would involve a significant risk to life or health;
- 4.4 take all reasonable steps to ensure that records over which they have control remain personally identifiable only as long as is necessary in the interests of those to whom they refer (or, exceptionally, to the general development and provision of psychological services), and to render anonymous any records under their control that no longer need to be personally identifiable for the above purposes;
- 4.5 only make audio, video, or photographic recordings of recipients of services or participants in research (with the exception of recordings of public behaviour) with the expressed agreement of those being recorded both to the recording being made and to the subsequent conditions of access to it;
- 4.6 take all reasonable steps to safeguard the security of any records they make, including those held on computer, and, where they have limited control over access to records they make, exercise discretion over the information entered on the records;
- 4.7 take all reasonable steps to ensure that colleagues, staff and trainees with whom they work understand and respect the need for confidentiality regarding any information obtained.
5 – Personal conduct
Psychologists shall conduct themselves in their professional activities in a way that does not damage the interest of the recipients of their services or participants in their research and does not inappropriately undermine public confidence in their ability or that of other psychologists and members of other professions to carry out their professional duties.
Specifically they shall:
- 5.1 refrain from improper conduct in their work as psychologists that would be likely to be detrimental to the interests of recipients of their services or participants in their research.
- 5.2 neither attempt to secure or to accept from those receiving their service any significant financial or material benefit beyond that which has been contractually agreed, nor to secure directly from them any such benefit for services which are already rewarded by salary-,
- 5.3 not exploit any relationship of influence or trust which exists between colleagues, those under their tuition, or those in receipt of their services to further the gratification of their personal desires;
- 5.4 not allow their professional responsibilities or standards of practice to be diminished by considerations of religion sex, race, age, nationality, party politics, social standing, class, self-interest or other extraneous factors;
- 5.5 refrain from practice when their physical or psychological condition, as a result of for example alcohol, drugs, illness or personal stress, is such that abilities or professional judgement are seriously impaired;
- 5.6 value and have respect for all relevant evidence and the limits of such evidence when giving psychological advice or expressing a professional opinion;
- 5.7 value and have respect for scientific evidence and the limits of such evidence when making public statements that provide psychological information;
- 5.8 refrain from claiming credit for the research and intellectual property of others and give due credit to the contributions of others in collaborative work;
- 5.9 take steps to maintain adequate standards of safety in the use of all procedures and equipment used in professional practice or research;
- 5.10 bring allegations of misconduct by a professional colleague to the attention of those charged with the responsibility to investigate them, doing so without malice and with no breaches of confidentiality other than those necessary to the proper investigatory processes and when the subject of allegations themselves, they shall take all reasonable steps to assist those charged with responsibility to investigate them.